Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets "86'd"

Robbie Rist, aka "Cousin Oliver" from The Brady Bunch was the first to break the news to me about what happened in Lexington, Virginia on Friday night.  He posted a tweet by Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Facebook about how she was asked to leave The Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.  I was immediately interested, mainly because I know Lexington.  I have a lot of family and friends in the area.  My dad went to college there, and it's also where I got married.  I've been visiting that town for most of my life and I know it well.

Poor thing... had to go hungry on a Friday night.

I was pretty surprised to hear that Ms. Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant there.  Lexington is the kind of place where country life meets city life.  It's a very southern town with plenty of residents proudly waving Confederate flags.  However, there are also two colleges sitting side by side in Lexington and plenty of folks identify as liberal, too.

I have never eaten at The Red Hen.  I think we considered dining there during our last visit in 2014 but, for some reason, opted not to.  I will make a point of booking a table next time I go "home", whenever that is.  The owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, explained why she asked Ms. Sanders to leave her restaurant.  While I ordinarily wouldn't agree with outright discriminating against a person because of who they are, Ms. Wilkinson sounds like someone I would be proud to work for, if I could stand the idea of waiting tables again.

I shared the news about Ms. Sanders' being asked to leave The Red Hen and it attracted a lot of divisive comments.  My own initial comment was this.

For the record, I think business owners should have the right to refuse service, as long as they're working in the private sector and whatever their business is doesn't put other people's lives on the line.  I would not be okay with a doctor or a police officer refusing to respond to an emergency because of who a person is.  I would not be okay with a teacher in a public school not teaching a student because the student is transgendered or mixed race.  I'm not okay with pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions to which they have moral objections.  But in those situations, the work being done is essential to a person's overall well-being.  I don't think the same can be said for a person running a private retail or restaurant business.

In other words, I don't think bakers should be forced to bake cakes.  It's not because I support being homophobic, though.  It's because I think there are times when it should be okay to refuse service to someone, as long as it doesn't mean the person will die or suffer some other life changing calamity.  I think people should be allowed to exercise their "free agency" and suffer the consequences, be they positive or negative.  I don't agree with trying to legislate morality.  To me, morality is personal and something that should come from within.  

If I support Ms. Wilkinson in denying Ms. Sanders service, then logically, I would have to support a baker's decision not to bake a cake.  I strongly agree with letting people vote with their wallets.  If you're dumb enough to be a racist or a homophobe in this day and age and you're in business, then so be it.  Let the public decide if that's acceptable.  I'd rather not make it a law that a baker is forced to bake.  Call it a throwback to my more conservative days.  Also, I would much rather know if someone preparing my food is a hater so I can ask someone else to prepare it.  I wouldn't want spit or any other nasty substance in my wedding cake.

Ms. Wilkinson has a number of gay employees in her employ and they have been directly affected by Donald Trump's divisive policies.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders defends Donald Trump's policies; it's her job.  But those policies have real consequences for everyday people.  Ms. Sanders has made the choice to be on Trump's team.  The restaurant owner asked her employees what they'd like her to do.  They said they wanted Ms. Sanders to leave.  So Ms. Wilkinson decided that she would take a stand for her employees and ask Ms. Sanders to go.  I commend her for having the courage to do that.  It's not like she did it to be hateful.  She did it in solidarity with her employees.  Having worked in restaurants myself, I know that in the better ones, the cooks and servers can become like family.

It seems to me that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has just experienced the other side to allowing discrimination.  You applaud a baker's right not to bake a cake for a gay wedding because it's "immoral"?  Well, if you allow the baker to discriminate on the basis of gay marriage being "immoral", then you have to allow the restaurant owner to discriminate when she decides to take a stand against what she considers immoral.  You can't have it both ways.  

Anyway, by Ms. Wilkinson's account, it sounds like she was polite about inviting Ms. Sanders to leave.  She didn't throw out their whole party, although the whole party did leave.  She didn't charge them for the wine and cheese they had already consumed.  She spoke to Ms. Sanders privately rather than publicly demanding that she leave.  

As for The Red Hen, I think it will survive this incident just fine.  Although many local people in Rockbridge County strongly support Donald Trump, the city of Lexington voted overwhelmingly against him.  Moreover, plenty of "liberal" people from up north visit Lexington.  It's kind of a cute jewel in the middle of the rural Shenandoah Valley.  I have a feeling more people will make the trip to Lexington now.  That may be a boon for all of the businesses in the area, not just The Red Hen.  I don't know when I'll be back in Lexington, but next time I go, I'll try to stop by... if the restaurant is still operational at that time. 


  1. It sounded almost as though the owner was standing up for her staff more than she was acting on personal convictions. If such was really the case, I would applaud her even more.
    I initially had some reservations regarding Sanders being asked to leave, but the more I think about it, the more acceptable it seems to me.

    1. Yes, apparently, she asked her staff and took a vote. The staff wanted Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. Quite a few of them are gay.

      I have to admit, I get frustrated by the black and white thinking some people have on this issue. Well, on many issues, really... I don't like abortion. I don't like discrimination. However, I do think there are times when both things must be okay. Because of that, I don't want to see either thing outlawed.


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